martin bandyke: Local musician Chris Dupont talks about his new album ahead of Blind Pig showcase
“Anxious Animal” is a terrific showcase for Dupont’s soulful, affecting voice and thoughtful song arrangements, which skillfully incorporate strings, dobro, mandolin and keyboards. Recently I had the chance to talk to this gifted 27-year-old musician about his new album, supportive family, and Holy Grail pantheon of artists.
Q: Take us into your new album “Anxious Animal.” Were all the songs written since your first album, “Lay No Claim,” came out?
C.D.: Interestingly enough, about half of the songs were written right before I wrapped up my first album. I had this burst of inspiration and wrote a bunch of tunes in a big hurry. Also right about that time I started playing much more with collaborators. I had Betsy King, who’s now my lovely wife, singing harmony with me, and with our dear friend Katie Van Dusen on violin we started playing out together in a trio format. That gave me a ton of inspiration and I wrote a bunch of songs all in a row.
I realized I was running out of time and that they were in such a different direction from the album I was about to release that I had to put them on the back burner. So I spent the past couple of years playing them live a lot, honing them, and then I wrote other songs along the way. By the time we went in to record “Anxious Animal” the songs were so stinking rehearsed that we were able to capture some pretty cool performances when we went to actually track it.
Q: Is there a song or two on “Anxious Animal” that you consider to be particularly personal?
C.D.: “Starting Fires” is really, really personal to me. It’s a song about how I view my spiritual life. If you believe in something bigger than yourself it doesn’t necessarily make you happy. It actually hurts a lot, but it’s worth it. That one came out in about nine minutes.
The other one is “House.” I wrote that for my youngest sister. She’s a really cool girl, she’s a writer and she’s a very—here’s the title—a very anxious person, a nervous self-conscious individual. I saw her wanting to break out of that and so I wrote the song hoping it would kick her in the butt. I started playing it at shows, and the next thing you know she was on an airplane to Ireland so it worked!
Q: Sounds like you’re devoting a major part of your life to music. How old were you when you started playing music and when did you get bitten by the music bug?
C.D.: I was kind of brainwashed in utero, actually. My father is a guitarist and a great singer, a great tenor. He played in bands all through my growing up. In the earliest pictures of me I’m sitting next to my dad trying to grab his guitar. I started taking it seriously when I was 12 years old. I’ve got an incredibly supportive family; I’m really lucky in that regard. I’m a third generation guitar-player singer-guy, it’s just kind of in the family. When I was 18 or 19 I was writing but was kind of nervous to perform. The last time I visited my grandmother she was dying of cancer and she said, “Sing me song right now or I’m going to kick your butt!” Ever since then I’ve been singing and performing.
Q: Can you name a few artists, songs or albums that you consider to be the Holy Grail in terms of songwriting?
C.D.: I’ve got to go to James Taylor. “Lo and Behold” off of the “Sweet Baby James” album is one of my favorites. That great mix between country and blues, it sounds like it’s a hundred years older that it is, you know.
Another one of my favorite songwriters, a more recent one, is Brendan James. He made a record called “The Day is Brave. “ On all those tunes, there’s something about the melodies and the lyrics that sound older than it is. I feel like this has been around and it’s already classic. His work is a big influence on me.
Compositionally speaking, Bon Iver’s recent (self-titled) album—in terms of the arrangements and how free it is—that record was a huge inspiration. I’ve been listening to it since it came out and I still can’t get tired of it.
Q: So would you say your ultimate musical goal would be to make a living as a singer-songwriter?
C.D.: Absolutely. I’m a bit of a multi-tasker and there’s a lot of things I’ve learned how to do. I’m a guitarist, I’ve done ambient music, I’ve done production and film scoring, but there’s nothing like performing one of your songs and building a connection with someone. That’s what I really thrive on. Playing a show and having someone tell me that they connected to something or that some of the lyrics felt like they were for them. It’s an incredibly humbling thing. Performing and writing are definitely my biggest passions and what I hope to focus my efforts into over the next few years.
8 p.m. (doors) Thursday, Feb. 28. Blind Pig, 208 S. First St. Cover, $7 (ages 18-20, $10).